A woman selected last week as "Secretary of the Year" by a Gaithersburg organization was placed on probation two days later for misappropriating funds from her former employer, the Montgomery County Health Department.

Kathy Cody, 29, was placed on three years probation Thursday after pleading guilty in Montgomery County Circuit Court to taking $8,762 from the Gaithersburg Health Center, where she had been a secretary.

Cody was suspended from that job last October after an internal audit revealed funds were missing. A week ago today, Cody was honored at a luncheon and named "Secretary of the Year" by the Gaithersburg branch of Manpower Temporary Service, one of the nation's largest secretarial services.

She was praised for "exceeding the highest level of proficiencies as a temporary and by exceeding stringent work objectives."

A spokesman at Manpower's headquarters in Milwaukee said company officials were not aware of Cody's arrest or guilty plea at the time the award was made. Cody has been an exemplary employe during her five months with the company, and recently accepted a full-time secretarial job with a firm where she had been placed for the last four months, said Elly Pick-Jacobs, Manpower's national director of public relations.

Pick-Jacobs said a reference request had been sent to the county's health department, but it was not returned. Pick-Jacobs also said that at the time she applied, Cody would not have been required to reveal her arrest. Applicants are only requested to reveal prior convictions.

Cody could not be reached for comment.

Before she was sentenced last Thursday by Judge James McAuliffe, Cody wept as she described how she took small amounts of cash paid by clients of the health service. Cody said she was having trouble making ends meet and that she had intended to pay back the money.

Cody has since paid back the money with the help of a relative, said Assistant State's Attorney Matt Campbell. Campbell said Cody immediately confessed to taking the money when an auditor telephoned the Gaithersburg Health Center last September and said the records were incomplete.